How to Remove Spyware Manually in Windows XP & Vista

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Spyware is a specific type of software that is installed on your computer (you don’t usually know when this has happened) and then proceeds to gather information about you (credit card number, sociall security number, which websites you visit, the content of your e-mail, etc.) without your knowledge.

Do keep in mind that the purpose of spyware goes way beyond just monitoring and spying: these programs usually not only collect all sorts of personal information like what I mentioned earlier but they can also interfere with your control over your own computer, such as installing additional other nefarious programs (adware, trojans, viruses) and redirecting

your web browser from where to wanted to go to spam sites or other sites that can install even more malware on your PC. Such spyware programs have been known to change the settings on your PC, which results in slower internet connection speeds, going to a different home page than

what you’ve previously set, and it can even cut off internet access for other programs (such as low quality anti-spyware and anti-virus programs).

In response to the great proliferation of spyware in the last few years, the small industry of spyware removal software has come about up. Using good quality anti-spyware software has become widely recognized as a vital element of

security practices for personal computers, particularly those running Microsoft Windows (computers running Mac OS X and various Linux/Unix derivatives tend to be less vulnerable for numerous reasons). Many different jurisdictions throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe have passed

tough anti-spyware laws, which are normally aimed at any software that is covertly installed to control a user’s computer without their knowledge or permission. The Federal Trade Commission in the United States has put up on the Internet a page of advice to consumers at OnGuardOnline.gov (click here to see it) about how to lower the risk of spyware infection, including an excellent list of simple and easy-to-follow “do’s” and “don’ts”.

How to remove spyware manually: the easy method

The first method we’re going to cover simply involves deleting any suspicious programs via Control Panel’s add/remove programs, killing any suspicious programs that may be running, plus we’re going to tell you about several secret files and folders where spyware and trojans like to hide (a good anti-spyware program will do all this automatically), and what’s safe to delete and what’s not, have a look:

How to remove spyware manually: the hard way

If you’ve got a really nasty bug on your machine that won’t even let you delete it (you’ll seemingly delete it or kill the program but it’s

there the next time you restart), then what you’ll need to do is to access the hard drive where the malicious files are stored without actually booting up the operating system (Windows, in this case). This may seem impossible, but it’s not when you realize that you need

TWO computers to do this (that’s why this is the ‘hard’ way), here’s what you do:

  • Shut down the infected PC, open up the case, and remove the hard drive (if you don’t know how to do this there’s some good instructions here).
  • Shut down the ‘clean’ PC, open up the case, and connect the ‘infected’ hard drive (almost all PCs now can have multiple hard drives hooked up at once).
  • Now, when you boot up the clean PC, you want to boot from that PC’s original, ‘clean’ hard drive, not the infected one (you can choose where you want to boot from in the BIOS settings).
  • Now you can access the ‘infected’ hard drive through Windows (should be in ‘My Computer’) and then delete whatever you need to (reference the above video for specifics on that) without having to worry about any of those programs interfering because none of them are running.
  • If you’ve got any anti-spyware software that you want to install on the infected hard drive, then you can do so now without having to worry about any of the spyware interfering with their installation (some spyware programs are so sophisticated at this point that they can recognize and disable the installation of all but the best anti-spyware programs).
  • Now you can shut down the clean PC, remove the previously infected hard drive, and reinstall it in its original PC and boot it up to see if you got it right.
  • *A piece of advice: before doing this method you may wish to consider backing up the hard drive that you’re going to try to manually ‘clean’ before doing so in case you accidentally delete any vital system files.

Additional Resources

I’ve used nearly a dozen different anti-spyware/adware/malware programs over the years, and if you’re interested in checking out anti-spyware software that can do everything above automatically for you (and it’s guaranteed not to damage your PC, unlike if you try to do it yourself), then I highly recommend something called NoAdware (here’s their website). I learned about it from a friend of mine who does IT security for a Fortune 500 company, and this is the stuff they use on their Windows machines–he says they haven’t had a spyware related incident in nearly 2 years now and it used to be a huge problem for them, so there you go.

Here’s an excellent set of detailed instructions on how to do the hard drive switching method detailed above with very, very specific step-by-step instructions on which files and folders to go into, what to delete, etc.

Here’s an excellent basic tutorial on how to get rid of trojans and worms, specifically.

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